by Anne Calder | Photo by Robin Ritoss

There was a slight shift in the overnight standings. The top two after the rhythm dance, Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron and Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov, kept their spots. Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue rallied past Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin to round out a 2019 World Championship podium of French, Russian and American ice dancers.

The three couples posted season best free dance and total scores.

Free Dance:

Papadakis & Cizeron lulled the Saitama audience with their mezmerizing gold medal performance to “Duet” and “Sunday Afternoon” by Rachael Yamagata. All their elements earned level 4s. The choreographic step, slide and lift connected seamlessly and earned a total 12.21 GOE out of a possible 12.45. The judges awarded 26 perfect 10.00 program component marks.

The four-time World Champions were pleased with their dance and very proud of the win. The free dance received 134.23 points; the total was 222.65.

“We are vey happy with our performance,” Papadakis said. “This year was so different from last year; it is post-Olympic. We had shorter preparations, not as many competitions as before. Everybody was a little bit more tired. We achieved exactly what we wanted to do today.”

Sinitsina & Katsalapov won silver – their first World Championship medal – with a seamless dance to Bach’s “Air” and Kreisler’s “Praeludium and Allegro”. The blend of the two classical pieces provided an excellent vehicle to perform all level 4 elements. The judges rewarded their one-foot step sequence with 3.01 GOE, the highest score for that element in the free dance.

The 2018 Grand Prix Final silver medalists were very happy with their performance, but were not completely satisfied.

“I cannot enjoy this moment fully because there is only one medal in sport, and it is the gold medal,” Katsalapov said. “We will keep on working, and we feel we are on the right path.”

As far as losing by 11 points to the French team, Katsalapov shared his thoughts at the Press Conference and then dropped the gauntlet.

“Gabriella and Guillaume are just amazing,” Katsalapov said. “They are icons on the ice now. Everybody is watching them and learning from them. It is really great to skate and compete with them. We are going to catch up with them. I wonder if it is going to be next season or not.”

Hubbell & Donohue began the free dance only 0.01 points out of third place. They made up that difference with a 127.31 bronze medal performance. The Americans, like the French and Russians ahead of them, earned all level 4 elements. The opening stationary lift received all +4 and +5 GOEs. The total 210.40 was only 1.36 off second place.

The original program with the Romeo and Juliet 1996 film soundtrack music debuted at the SLC Classic in September. However, over the season the couple and its coaches made many adjustments to the choreography. The last change actually involved the finale music.

For a long time, their coach, Patrice Lauzon, wanted to explore ending the program on a high note – a more dramatic note, but he never found the right music, the right cut. Hubbell & Donohue also wanted to challenge themselves to make a stronger last part and really give a performance for the Japanese audience.

“Luckily we have an amazing team, and they put several iconic pieces together and did a mash up,” Hubbell explained (on the teleconference call prior to Worlds). “So the last minute of the program really ends with a very strong piece that will hopefully take the audience from that quiet internal place in the [middle section] love story to a standing ovation and momentum at the end.

The team’s efforts were rewarded with a roaring round of approval from the crowd.

Russians Stepanova & Bukin performed blues to Beth Hart’s “Am I the One”. The 2019 European silver medalists slipped to fourth place with a total 208.52 and less than 2 points off the podium.

“We have done our best and showed everything we could,” Stepanova said. “We are ready to fight for the top three in the world. It is a big step forward for us.”

Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje from Canada were fifth with an emotional tribute to their deceased friend Denis Ten that scored 205.62.

“It wasn’t perfect, but this program isn’t about levels and scores,” Weaver said. “Today we skated for ourselves and Denis, and we are going home happy.”

Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates placed sixth with two Elvis Presley selections. The 204.92 score was less than a point from fifth where they finished in 2018.

“I think it’s our favorite free dance that we have ever had,” Bates said. “It’s very audience friendly.”

ICE CHIPS

  • The 2014 Worlds were also held at the Saitama Super Arena. The newly crowned 2019 gold medalists, Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume, made their World debut there and placed 13th. Teams also at the event were Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (second), Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates (fifth), Canadians Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (eighth), Italians Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (14th) and Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen (29th).
  • Canadian National Champions, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje have finished in the top five at the World Championships for nine straight years beginning in 2011. The team has won three medals – two bronze / one silver.
  • Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen skated for Canada at Worlds for the first time after representing Denmark for five seasons beginning in 2013. The team sat out the 2018 event.
  • Nine teams made their World Championship debuts.
  • In addition to the podium winners, Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin (RUS), Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu (CHN) and Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevicius (LTU) had all three RD, FD, and Total season best scores.